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Was Eldridge justified in vetoing building inspector position?

Staff Report • Apr 30, 2012 at 8:48 AM

It’s taken two separate votes by county commissioners to make it possible, but Washington County will soon hire its own building inspector. Commissioners approved a resolution last month to create the new position. That action was vetoed on April 6 by County Mayor Dan Eldridge. It was his first veto as the county’s chief executive officer.

The mayor said a funding mechanism should have been put into place before creating the position. He said the commission’s vote amounted to putting the “cart before the horse.”

Commissioners returned to Jonesborough on April 23 and voted to override Eldridge’s veto. Commissioners Mitch Meredith, David Tomita and Ken Lyon voted against the override. Commissioners Ethan Flynn and Lee Chase were not present for the vote.

The original resolution, which passed in March by a vote of 22-2, called for approximately $61,000 to be spent for the new position. Commissioners voted this month to file the 2006 edition of the International Building Code with the county clerk — an action that Press staff writer Gary B. Gray reports will trigger the time clock on adoption of the building codes. The new building inspector is expected to be hired sometime this summer, with the county scheduled to begin collecting its building permit fees on Sept. 1. Those fees do not have to be shared with the state.

Washington County will opt out of its current contract with the State Fire Marshal’s Office and start its own residential building codes department that will oversee a construction process that begins with building plans approved by the Washington County Zoning Office and ends with a county-issued permit.

If the county adopts the same fees as the state — which currently does building inspections — the $79,000 that went to the state in 2011 would pay for salary and expenses of the new position.

Before their vote to override his veto, Eldridge told commissioners questions still need to be answered about the building inspector.

“I believe the best procedure before hiring a building inspector is to establish a funding mechanism,” Eldridge said. “Do we have a demand to justify a full-time position? And why have we not communicated this proposal to the builder’s association? It’s not that we’ve got a bad plan. It’s just that I feel we need to establish a funding mechanism first.”

Washington County Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford told commissioners their actions have sent a clear message in terms of what the county wishes to achieve with the creation of the new position.

“The cart is not before the horse,” Rutherford said. “You (commissioners) decided today to go forward. You don’t just hire a guy on Sept. 1. I don’t want to debate and belabor this. You either want the program or you don’t. I have workshops scheduled, and that includes builders. When you adopted the resolution, you OK’d the position. It’s up to you to set the fees.”

Tell us what you think. Was Eldridge justified in vetoing the building inspector’s position?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or [email protected] Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

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